RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr gave a warning about coronavirus during a Feb. 27 private event in Washington, according to a recording obtained by NPR.
The NPR recording is from Burr speaking at a Feb. 27 North Carolina State Society event. In the recording, Burr warned about the impact COVID-19 could have on the United States, during which President Donald Trump downplayed possible effects.
According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
Burr said in the recording that schools may be altered and involving the military may be inevitable. His comments contrasted Trump’s optimism at the time.
Just two weeks before the event, on Feb. 13, Burr made major stock trading moves, selling off up to $1.6 million worth of capital in various companies, including hotel chains.
Records reflected on a financial disclosure form filed with the U.S. Senate show the stock sales. Six transactions show sales between $15,001 and $50,000. No buys were listed in the disclosure form.
Burr, a North Carolina Republican, is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Burr’s selloff came just as the committee was receiving daily briefings on the coronavirus health threat, according to an article by ProRepublica.
ProRepublica reported that Burr unloaded between $582,000 and $1.5 million of his stock holdings.
A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30 percent since.
“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak. As the situation continues to evolve daily,” his spokesperson said to CBS 17 in a news release. “He has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy. He supported Congress’ immediate efforts to provide $7.8 billion for response efforts and this week’s bipartisan bill to provide relief for American business and small families.”
Burr fired back at NPR on Thursday in a series of tweets, calling the story “tabloid-style” and claimed that the radio station “knowingly and irresponsibly misrepresented” the speech he gave that’s heard in the recording.
“The message I shared with my constituents is the one public health officials urged all of us to heed as coronavirus spread increased: Be prepared,” Burr’s tweet read.
“COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation. To know if we’ve been successful in stemming it, we have to keep an accurate accounting of our nation’s response,” he continued.
Burr confirms that the speech was given at a North Carolina State Society event, but says there isn’t anything secretive about the event or the constituents he spoke to.
“Every state has a state society. They aren’t ‘secretive’ or ‘high-dollar donor’ organizations. They’re great civic institutions that bring people in D.C. together for events, receptions, and lunches,” Burr wrote on Twitter.
Members of Congress are required by law to disclose their securities transactions.